One of my latest personal ambitions involves developing greater mindfulness in my day-to-day. There are thousands of resources out there – books, articles, blogs, groups, institutes, workshops – you name it – all of them eager to get each of us that much closer to being fully grounded in our earthly existence. Which, I will admit, can quickly sound esoteric to even the most receptive ears.
The options in pursuit of mindfulness are several but essentially all forms of mindfulness training involve practicing some type of meditation whether it is called that or not. What I am finding in my beginner’s state is that my opportunities to practice being fully present and alert are numerous and my capacity to focus and initiate that practice is remarkably weak and underdeveloped.
Here are some examples:
When was the last time you ate this way: Chewing each mouthful fully and swallowing before preparing the next bite? Try it. It’s harder than it sounds. Typically when we eat, we have tons more going on, even if it’s only thoughts in our heads. And we tend to eat on a sort of autopilot – we may taste our food but rarely do out thoughts linger there. One mouthful follows the next and in a flash we’re done and marvel at where it all went.
Try eating differently; mindfully.
Take a bite. Taste it completely. Notice the flavors, texture, how it feels in your mouth. Swallow. Only now prepare the next bite. Repeat the process.
In my brief experience, when I try this I usually make it through perhaps two bites in a row before my regular thoughts highjack the process and I’m back to shoveling in food without registering what I am doing. It’s amazing how often I need to call myself back to the practice. Yet even that, the practice of calling myself back to the practice, is itself a practice. (Welcome, esoteric voiceover…)
Walking or jogging
Getting outside to walk or jog would seem to offer another chance to develop this new habit. I used to run competitively and my recreational, just-trying-to-stay-trim running therefore tends to be freighted with more baggage than necessary. What a golden opportunity to strive for groundedness!
For several strides I can focus on my even and relaxed breathing- in and out, in and out, and before you (and I) know it, I am despairing my lackluster effort, cursing my less than helpful nutritional habits of late…even as I keep the same steady pace.
I see and appreciate that my road to mindful living will likely be a steep uphill climb at this stage. Effortful, humbling, and elusive are the words I associate with the process right now. And if I understand the underlying premise of mindfulness training, right now is the only time of any relevance.
Right now is the only time we can change anything.
Guess I’ll go chew on that thought for a while.